NICHOLAS

Hey!” I intensified my grip on the baseball bat. “Stop. Turn around before I hit you.”

He paused for a second as I stood at the doorway. He made a slow turn, away from the kitchen counter, with a half sandwich stuck in his mouth.

“Man what kinda costume is this? Is this what you damn robbers wear now? Dressing up as Santa going around robbing people. What do you think this is, Friday after next?”

“This?” He pulled his cloth with a pinch, as if to examine it. “It’s not a costume. I am not here to rob you,” he said.

“Then why in nine planets are you dressed like an ancient clown?” — I referred to his red tunic and brown leather belt. With quirky ass red woollen trousers tucked into black boots. — “Making peanut butter sandwich in my damn kitchen?”

“Because I am Santa,” he said.

“Who?”

“Santa.”

I laughed maniacally. “Man what did you smoke?”

“But I’m not here to rob you.”

“Then what do you want? And who the hell are you?” I raised the bat higher. He flinched.

“I- ahem,” he cleared his throat. “I am Nicholas.”

I was entering my twenty-seventh year since I moved to New York and I had never met someone with the accent. I stared at him, still holding my bat high.

“Please,” he said. “I didn’t mean to be any trouble. Twas a stretched walk and a long way through the snow before I saw your lights through the window. Figured you might be up.”

“Yeah black Santa, I’m up. And you might be down if you don’t start spilling why you broke into my house midnight. And how in the world did you even enter man?”

“I just wanted some tea.” Nicholas pointed to the mug on the counter.

“And some sandwich I see. Man does this look like a soup kitchen to you?”

“I am sorry but I did not find any kitchen open. I assumed everyone would be in bed, dreaming about the gifts they’d see beneath their trees in the morning.”

“What the hell are you talking about man?” He could see the confusion on my face. “Heck, I’m calling the police on yo ass.”

“Look, I’m sorry,” said Nicholas. “I’m truly sorry. As I said, I just needed some hot tea. I was cold.”

There I noticed the tiredness in his crooked voice, and in the creases on his face. His black boots held the sweats of snow. He leaned back on one leg, shifting his weight and I could see he needed to sit. But I couldn’t trust him.

“How did you even enter the house?”

“The only way I do.” His eyes suggested that I should know. He noticed I did not. “Down the chimney,” he said.

“The Chimn — What? This is all a joke right?”

“I don’t see how it’s funny.” Nicholas shrugged. He loosened the latch on his belt. “Twas hard climbing to the roof anyway. Twas slippery, but I owe credit to my boots. Normally, I’d have my reindeers land on the roof but ’em fellas down the street attacked and slayed ’em. I escaped after they took my bag.”

“Wait,” I hesitated. “You’re telling me you rode Reindeers through the city and you got attacked.”

“Sounds like it.” He sipped some tea from the cup. He stroke his hands through his thick curled black beards. His eyes caught a little stool in the corner. He grunted as he sat on it. Then he said, “I landed for a gift dispatch and they grabbed me. Killed every last of one of my reindeers.”

“Man are you on crack?”

“No no no,” he cackled.

“You know what? I don’t want to go through this right now. No man. No. Not today. I’ll give you a chance to finish that tea sir, and walk out my door, or back up through the chimney. Your choice. But you need to leave before I finish what those dudes started.”

He looked very unbothered about what I said. Another sip of tea. “I need shelter,” he muttered.

“Nigga say what?”

He stood up, placed the mug back on the counter, and faced me. “Please. I need shelter, till morning at least.”

“Was that on your list when you broke in?”

“It wasn’t. But neither was, have a conversation with the owner of the house. But here you are, talking to me.”

I stood there, in utter disbelief. My eyes got lost staring at him. Was any of this real? How could I trust a man claiming to be Santa, and yet with no big bags filled with gifts? No puffy red coats. A black Santa. I always thought Santa was white. But here I am, facing a nigga with a Mediterranean complexion, a Greek accent and a sad recent robbery memory.

“I can’t believe this,” I said. “I don’t even believe in Santa to start with.”

“Probably why fate brought me to you. We all have our doubts and the universe has a way to disprove them.”

“Oh yeah?” I scuffed. “What’s yours?”

“Of all my years journeying around the world delivering gifts from the capital. I had never interacted with an actual person, you know. I always doubted humans had true empathy.”

“Oh, so you think I have empathy.”

“I’m still in your kitchen, and about five minutes ago you lowered your bat-hand. So I would say yes.”

“Pfft.”

“Just the couch,” he said. “I could use some rest before I set out in the morning. Please.”

“Like you could get anything else.”

With that, I realized he had penetrated my soft spot. I held the bat in my hand still as I led him back to the living room. And while I set up the couch for him to use, I kept thinking about it all. It still seemed like a dream. For all I know, I could be sleepwalking.

It was past two a.m. and I was in my parlour setting a bed for a man that came down the chimney, for tea and some sliced bread. He didn’t even have a single gift box with him. How do I explain to my wife and daughter that I let a stranger who said he was Santa, sleep in our house?

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Nicholas said. “I’d be out before they get up.”

“What the hell man? Did you just read my mind?”

“How do you think we hear wishes?” he said, sounding bullish.

That freaked me out. I couldn’t say anything. Heck, I didn’t want to think anything. But, it also reinforced his claims. He just might be Santa.

I stretched out the couch suspension and watched him lay on it after removing his boots.

“Thank you,” he said.

I found his gritty voice a bit funny. But I held the expression away from my face. “You’re welcome,” I told him.

I thought my daughter might relish the chance to meet him. “You know, if you don’t mind, you could wait around for breakfast. It’s a big turkey for just three anyway.”

“Hmm, yes please,” he said. “Thank you …?” he raised his brows in anticipation.

I realized he wanted my name. “Alfred,” I said. “You can call me Fred.”

“Thank you Fred. Good night.”

I hit the light switch and walked up the stairs to the bedroom. “Good night Nicholas.”

Exactly four a.m., my alarm went off. I stopped the chiming and rolled over to face my wife. “Merry Christmas baby.”

“Merry Christmas love,” she groaned. The light from the digital clock reflected on a part of her face. I could see a half smile on her face.

It warmed my heart. Then I stood up. I brushed my teeth and went to my daughter’s bedroom.

“Merry Christmas sunshine,” I whispered, and I kissed her forehead. She was still deep in her sleep.

Now I walked down the stairs. Nicholas still tucked up on the couch, stretched a little as I walked past him to the kitchen. I removed the turkey from the freezer and prepared our meal. Almost three hours later, I dished the food and set the dining. Then I could hear him yawn. He smacked his lips a few times.

“I put a toothbrush and paste in the guest bathroom to your left,” I told him from the dining.

“Thanks Fred.” I heard as he dragged his feet to the bathroom. “Good morning,” he said.

My wife came down to the kitchen. Her face confused bemused as if she had just seen a dancing ghost. I explained everything to her. We whispered to prevent him hearing the debate.

“So you allowed him stay the night?”

“I had no choice,” I answered. “He says he’s Santa.”

“You don’t sound so convinced,” she said.

“Oh well I was hoping I wasn’t hungover from last night’s drinking.”

“Did he at least bring a gift?”

“I must have skipped that part babe. No, he did not.”

“Charming,” she scoffed.

Nicholas was back from the bathroom. He had folded the couch extension. He put on his boots and we stood in front of him.

“Hello, I’m Nicholas,” he said to my wife. “I’m sorry for the trouble. I didn’t mean to.”

“It’s alright Nicholas. My husband explained.”

“Papa,” my daughter called from up the stairs.

“Hey baby,” I called back to her. “There’s my little sunshine.”

She ran down the stairs and jumped straight into my arms. “Merry Christmas daddy.”

I kissed her cheek. “Merry Christmas baby.”

She paused. She stared at Nicholas, as if she had met him before.

He looked back at her with a subtle smile. He said to her in a soft voice, “Merry Christmas little dove.”

She gave off the most soothing smile I had ever seen on her face. She dropped out of my arms and went to him. “Welcome to our house,” she said to him.

I felt the warmth in my heart. I could see the connection. My wife could see it. He made her laugh seamlessly. And that was the moment we both got convinced he was Santa.

We invited Nicholas to the table, and we all shared funny stories. I told them about the recipe my recipe. It was my father’s and his father’s before him. I told them the jokes my father told about cooking.

“’If it’s delicious, claim the recipe. If it’s not, say it’s your father’s,’ he would say.” They all laughed.

Nicholas told us about how each year, the citadel received letters filled with wishes. And how he flew to cities to distribute gifts after the citadel ordered them from stores. He mentioned the citadel was in eastern Turkey. That was a major surprise.

He pulled out the turkey lap, as he talked about how he lost his magic wand. He said it allowed him access through the chimney. It made his reindeers fly too.

“Those damned thieves broke it,” he said, swirling the turkey lap in the air like a wand. “I walked out a door after delivering a gift. That home didn’t have a chimney, so it was front door delivery,” he laughed.

We paid full attention to his stories and they were magical. It was like having Jesus share stories with you on Easter, or Martin Luther King Jnr on MLK day.”

“Fred.”

“Yeah Nick.”

“This is the best turkey I ever tasted,” he said.

“Thank you Nicholas,” I said. “That means a lot.”

“You know I tried cracking the bone with my teeth a moment ago.”

“You did?”

“Yes,” he answered.

I giggled. “Poor you,” I said. “I’d try anything in life; flaming hot food, concentrated alcohol, fried pork meat, God bless my heart. And some cigar to roast away the fat. All these but I wouldn’t dare crack the bones of a Christmas turkey.”

“I learnt my lesson now.” He laughed.

“Nicholas,” my daughter said.

“Yes darling.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, with a subtle smile.

My wife and I shared a secret look. We couldn’t figure out what was going on between the two of them.

We finished our meals and packed up the dining. I gave him a change of clothes and a pair of slippers. He joined me in front of the fire for a drink, and we continued talking.

“So what was that about?” I asked him.

“What’d you mean?”

“So now you’re pretending you didn’t already walk through my mind.”

“I can’t. Well I didn’t.” He looked worried. “My wand gave me all the powers I had. They start to wear off when I stay long without it.”

I was not sure what to say. “It’s nothing. You can stay here till we figure out what to do with your magic-less ass.”

He thanked me. Then he said, “What were you going to ask?”

“My daughter, she thanked you. What for?”

“I had thought all night long about why this happened, what I’m here for. It eluded me. And not until I laid my eyes on her, and when she smiled did I find my answer.”

He turned his face to me. “I am the answer to her wish,” he said.

“And what was her wish?”

“She wished to meet a real life Santa, like the one she had seen in movies and books.”

I looked in awe. Totally amazed by how that worked out.

“You didn’t only grant her wish you know,” I said. “You granted mine too.”

“And what was it?”

I dropped the cup in my hand on the little table between us. “It’s the first Christmas since I got my promotion at work. The first one since I got this house and everything. Also, it’s the first one without my twin brother. I wished I could have a Christmas feast with him again.”

He looked at me shell shocked. He held his drink in his left hand and turned his face away from me slowly. We stayed silent for few minutes, a break in the fire carried tiny sparks of fire between us.

Then Nicholas said under his tongue, “Merry Christmas brother.”

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Isaiah A. Agoro

Isaiah A. Agoro

I write emotional free-verse poetry, and short stories. Subscribe to my page and get lost in the rabbithole of themed poetry.